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‘It’s not goodbye, it’s au revoir’: British MEPs sit in the European Parliament for the last time

MEPs broke down in tears today as British politicians sat in the European Parliament for the last time and were given an emotional send off which included a sombre rendition of Auld Lang Syne.

European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen said ‘we will always love you and we will never be far’ as she bid farewell to the UK contingent ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday. 

The British politicians’ last act this evening was to ratifying the Brexit Deal ahead of the UK’s departure on Friday.  

They passed the Withdrawal Agreement 621 – 49, following the completion last week of the passage of the Withdrawal Agreement Bill through Parliament.

After tears, and the lighting of candles at commemorative events in Brussels earlier, there was applause as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s valedictory speech after two decades at the heart of the EU establishment was cut off.

As he and his MEPs waved Union jacks in the chamber, vice-president Mairead McGuinness turned off his microphone, saying: ‘Please sit down, put your flags away, you’re leaving – and take them with you.’

But addressing MEP’s former German minister Ms Von der Leyen said: ‘No new partnership will bring back the benefits of being part of the same union but we have the duty to seek the best for the British and for the European people in a post-Brexit world.

‘To our British friends and many – perhaps not all – but many of our British MEPs here in the room, I want to use the words of the famous British poet George Eliot.

‘She said, ”Only in the agony of parting do we look into the depth of love”.

‘We will always love you and we will never be far, long live Europe.’

British and European Remain supporters had earlier waved football-style scarfs marked 1973-2020 – the dates of the UK’s membership of the European Union. 

There were tears – and some singing – at farewell meetings between pro-European British MEPs and their European parties. 

Many MEPs were emotional at events to mark the UK’s departure fromt he EU on Friday 

Their last act this evening will be a vote on ratifying the Brexit Deal ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday

Their last act this evening will be a vote on ratifying the Brexit Deal ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday

British members of the European Parliament from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats pose for a group picture at the Europa Building

British members of the European Parliament from the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats pose for a group picture at the Europa Building

Remain supporters help aloft football-style scarfs marked 1973-2020 - the dates of the UK's membership of the European Union

Remain supporters help aloft football-style scarfs marked 1973-2020 – the dates of the UK’s membership of the European Union

Their last act this evening will be a vote on ratifying the Brexit Deal ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday

Their last act this evening will be a vote on ratifying the Brexit Deal ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday

A number of British MEPs shared emotional messages on social media as they prepared for their jobs to become redundant

A number of British MEPs shared emotional messages on social media as they prepared for their jobs to become redundant

Members of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament cry during a ceremony at the Europa Building in Brussel

Members of the Group of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats in the European Parliament cry during a ceremony at the Europa Building in Brussel

Remain supporters had earlier waved football-style scarfs marked 1973-2020 - the dates of the UK's membership of the European Union

Remain supporters had earlier waved football-style scarfs marked 1973-2020 – the dates of the UK’s membership of the European Union 

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has spend 20 years as part of the EU establishment, was in an upbeat mood ahead of finally losing his job

Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage, who has spend 20 years as part of the EU establishment, was in an upbeat mood ahead of finally losing his job

There was applause from other MEPs as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage's valedictory speech after two decades at the heart of the EU establishment was cut off

There was applause from other MEPs as Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage’s valedictory speech after two decades at the heart of the EU establishment was cut off

They arrived at one, a sign above the chamber, erected by the S&D, a coalition of socialist parties, read: ‘It’s not goodbye, it’s au revoir.’

A number of British MEPs shared emotional messages on social media as they prepared for their jobs to become redundant.

But others were more upbeat, with Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney sharing a video post shared from the chamber, saying: ‘It just feels emotional really, bittersweet. 

‘On the one hand it’s not a perfect deal, but on the other hand we thought in September or October that this may never even happen. There were some dark, dark days.

‘Today we can build to a positive future.’ 

Pro-EU members of the European Parliament linked arms, sang songs and wore scarves on the last day for British MEPs

Pro-EU members of the European Parliament linked arms, sang songs and wore scarves on the last day for British MEPs 

There were tears - and some nostalgic singing - at farewell meetings between pro-European British MEPs and their European parties

There were tears – and some nostalgic singing – at farewell meetings between pro-European British MEPs and their European parties

Two colleagues embrace on the last day for British MEPs in the European Parliament. The UK is set to leave the EU on Friday

Two colleagues embrace on the last day for British MEPs in the European Parliament. The UK is set to leave the EU on Friday

In emotional scenes in the European Parliament today, colleagues held hands, sang songs as they bid farewell to their British counterparts

In emotional scenes in the European Parliament today, colleagues held hands, sang songs as they bid farewell to their British counterparts

Some MEPs of the European Parliament, holding hands, rise to sing 'Auld Lang Syne' following a historic vote on the Brexit agreement at a session of the European Parliament that paves the way for the departure of the EU on Friday

Some MEPs of the European Parliament, holding hands, rise to sing ‘Auld Lang Syne’ following a historic vote on the Brexit agreement at a session of the European Parliament that paves the way for the departure of the EU on Friday

British Members of European Parliament of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group Theresa Griffin (C) reacts after the European Parliament ratified the Brexit deal today

British Members of European Parliament of the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats group Theresa Griffin (C) reacts after the European Parliament ratified the Brexit deal today

Green MEPs lit candles outside the parliament as they held aloft candles around a banner saying ‘we will leave a light on’. 

Green Party South East MEP Alexandra Phillips tweeted: ‘I’m devastated to be leaving the best job in the world. I get to make real change every day while being surrounded by 27 different languages and cultures – I’m going to miss that. I’m going to miss my team, my colleagues too.’ 

However, her fellow MEP Magid Magid was planning to go out on a high. He is planning to host a ‘Brexit’s s**t, but let’s party anyway’ event with live DJ in Brussels.

Before today’s session the 30-year-old, voiced his hope that his adoptive country of Britain – he was born in Somalia – woukld one day return to the European Union.

‘As Britain we need to figure out what we want to be,’ he said.

European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen said 'we will always love you and we will never be far' as she bid farewell to the UK contingent ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday

European Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen said ‘we will always love you and we will never be far’ as she bid farewell to the UK contingent ahead of Brexit taking place on Friday

There were tears - and some nostalgic singing - at farewell meetings between pro-European British MEPs and their European parties

There were tears – and some nostalgic singing – at farewell meetings between pro-European British MEPs and their European parties

British Labour MEP Julie Ward, right, is embraced by another party member

British Labour MEP Julie Ward, right, is embraced by another party member

Others also dabbed away tears as they bade an official farewell to the UK

Others also dabbed away tears as they bade an official farewell to the UK 

Green MEPs lit candles outside the parliament as they held aloft candles around a banner saying 'we will leave a light on'

Green MEPs lit candles outside the parliament as they held aloft candles around a banner saying ‘we will leave a light on’

The European Parliament's Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said Britain's departure was a 'sad' moment for the EU as he opened this afternoon's debate

The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said Britain’s departure was a ‘sad’ moment for the EU as he opened this afternoon’s debate

‘Do we want to be like a small island, Little Britain, where we’re just trying to be in the pocket of Donald Trump and the United States?

‘You know what? I still think that maybe in the future we’ll be back in the European Union. Maybe I’ll have a little bit more grey hair in my beard, but I’m quite hopeful,’ he declared.

Liberal Democrats MEPs tweeted pictures of gifts from the pro-European Renew Europe group, including a t-shirt bearing the words ‘stop Brexit’ and a signed half-UK, half-EU yellow flag.

The party’s South East MEP Catherine Bearder tweeted: ‘As the LDs attend their last @RenewEurope group meeting we exchange gifts, memories of campaigns we fought, lost and won. You will always be our friends, and we will one day return I am sure.’ 

Iratxe Garcia Perez, the Spanish leader of the Socialist group, choked back tears as she said farewell to her British Labour Party comrades.

And parliamentary speaker David Sassoli reached for a historical metaphor of more recent date than that deployed by Farage.

‘It’s a sad day for our parliament, not just for our political family, but our generation has seen walls fall,’ he said.

The Scottish National Party promised to add to the drama by playing their MEPs out with bagpipes, and liberals sang ‘Auld Lang Syne’ together.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab signed the official document ratifying the deal for the UK side, which was then taken to Brussels by Britain’s ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow.

Mr Raab said it was a ‘historic moment’ and ‘the start of a new chapter for an independent, sovereign Britain, looking forward to a decade of renewal and opportunity’.

Earlier in Brussels, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would miss being the European Parliament's 'pantomime villain'

Earlier in Brussels, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would miss being the European Parliament’s ‘pantomime villain’

Green MEP Magid Magid was planning to go out on a high. He is planning to host a 'Brexit's s**t, but let's party anyway' event with live DJ in Brussels

Green MEP Magid Magid was planning to go out on a high. He is planning to host a ‘Brexit’s s**t, but let’s party anyway’ event with live DJ in Brussels

Earlier in Brussels, Brexit Party leader Nigel Farage said he would miss being the European Parliament’s ‘pantomime villain’ ahead of his final speech and the vote on the Withdrawal Agreement.

He said Brexit was a ‘victory for grassroots campaigning’ in the face of opposition from the ‘entire UK establishment’.

‘Whatever my criticisms may be of the political system in the UK and its need for urgent reform, in the end what this shows is that it still actually works,’ he said.

‘So, I’m going to be celebrating the fact that democracy and the will of the people has triumphed at 11 o’clock this Friday.’

He added: ‘I will miss some of the drama, I will miss being the pantomime villain – the guy that gets up and 500 people start booing.

‘I have got my last speech here this afternoon, so I will do my best if I can to get some audience participation.’

The European Parliament’s Brexit co-ordinator Guy Verhofstadt has said Britain’s departure was a ‘sad’ moment for the EU.

Opening the debate in Brussels on the Withdrawal Agreement, Mr Verhofstadt said: ‘It is sad to see a country leaving that twice liberated us, has twice given its blood to liberate Europe.’

He predicted, however, that the UK would eventually rejoin.

‘In the last couple of days I have received hundreds of mails from British citizens saying they desperately want to stay or return,’ he said. ‘So this vote is not an adieu, this vote, in my opinion, is only an au revoir.’

He also poured scorn on the idea that Brexit would mean Britain recovering its sovereignty.

‘What is in fact threatening Britain’s sovereignty most – the rules of our single market or the fact that tomorrow they may be planting Chinese 5G masts in the British islands?’

European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen said she wants to ‘forge a close partnership’ with the UK after Brexit.

‘The Withdrawal Agreement is only the first step. From now on it’s about our new partnership with the United Kingdom. The negotiations are about to start,’ she told MEPs.

‘And just to be very clear, I want the European Union and the United Kingdom to stay good friends and good partners.

‘The story is about old friends and new beginnings and we have a lot in common.’

She cited the necessity to tackle the climate crisis together and that security cooperation is interlinked.

‘For all of these and many other reasons, we want to forge a close partnership but we also know that we have to sort out how to deal with the United Kingdom as a third country,’ she said.

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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